Nationally, engineering majors get highest starting salaries

Engineering majors account for eight of the top 10 highest paid degrees, the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ winter 2010 salary survey found.

After reviewing job offer data from students at 200 colleges and universities, the association concluded majors in various engineering disciplines, computer science and information sciences and systems are among the best-paid.

“Engineering majors are so valued because it is a technical major. The number has been decreasing each year and that’s why there’s more demand for engineers,” Andrea Koncz, employment information manager at NACE, said of the number of students graduating with engineering majors.

The study shows petroleum engineering majors – accounting for less than 1 percent of all bachelor’s degrees received – can earn a starting salary of $86,220 after college, the highest total found in the study.

Other high-paying disciplines include chemical engineering at $65,142 and mining and mineral engineering at $64,552.

Barbara Myklebust, assistant dean for student affairs and research professor of electrical and computer engineering, said a range of engineering jobs are in demand despite the recent job market woes.

“Engineering job opportunities are holding steady, very robust,” she said. “Biomedical engineering jobs will increase in opportunity. It is not recession-proof but because of the breadth of work, there will always be jobs in the market.”

Even during the recession, Myklebust said almost all SEAS students have job offers because of their ability to take scientific knowledge and design new things society needs, or are accepted into a master’s, law school, medical school, or graduate business program.

Besides various majors within engineering like petroleum, chemical and mechanical, computer science majors ranked number four. Information sciences and systems majors ranked number 10.

“Engineers have been affected because overall salaries are not as high as a few years ago. But getting a job won’t be as difficult as most other majors,” Alex Florescu, a senior majoring in computer science, said.

Since the job market changes so often, Florence Wong, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, said students should major in what they love.

“If you pick your major based on the job market, then by the time you graduate, you may not get a high salary [because the job market might change] and you may end up stuck with a major you don’t enjoy,” she said.

For freshman Scott McColl, studying electrical engineering at the School of Engineering and Applied Science was ideal because the department combines electrical engineering and computer engineering to help foster more research and innovation in such fields.

“I chose electrical engineering because figuring out basic circuits in my AP Physics class came easily and was interesting to me,” McColl said.

NACE will provide a second look at salaries for the class of 2010 in April with the release of the spring 2010 salary survey.

“Over the next 10 years, engineers will continue to see a rise in salaries – not huge, but small to moderate increases,” Koncz said.

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